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Jamaica

Puritanism emerged as a minority Christian religious sect during the latter part of the Elizabethan age/reign, but was only to become a strong force later during the reign of the Stuart dynasty. It was the Puritans, under Oliver Cromwell, who eventually challenged King Charles I and initiated the Civil War, in due course executing the king and establishing the Commonwealth or Protectorate until the Restoration of the Monarchy under Charles II (1688). The Puritans, even as far back as Shakespeares time (when Twelfth Night was written and performed, in/around 1601-02) were already displaying some of their typical characteristics, of a negative nature: 1. A self-righteous and holier-than-thou attitude in all matters of religion and public life;

2. A rigid, serious and unsympathetic view of religious and moral duties, leaving no room for laughter, jollity, entertainment and human pleasuresas they believed God to be a stern, unforgiving judge, who would cast all sinners (as they perceived them) into Hell and would reward the good and virtuous people (also a self-perception); 3. A strong hatred and antagonism to all the arts which they considered devilish distractions in the pursuit of moral virtueespecially an antagonism towards the theatre, or drama, which was enjoyed by the majority of Englishmen and women of al classes, and which the Puritans considered as a corrupting influence on the general moral standards of the nation; It is to be noted that at this time, the larger part of Puritan converts belonged to the middle-classes, and they also disliked the easy-going, sophisticated attitudes of the nobility and thought that the aristocrats were setting a bad example for the lower classes by promoting theatre, music, and other light-hearted revelry. Thus, they frequently attacked theatre in their sermons, lectures, pamphlets and demonstrations. They demanded, firstly, a reduction in such entertainments, especially a banning of frivolity on holy days, sacred occasions, festivals etc. The lower classes paid very little attention to the Puritans, beyond insulting and jeering at their attitudes in a crude way. The nobility, headed by the Queen and her court and representing the elite of the Church of England, were quite broad-minded and tolerant towards the Puritans. They kept a wary eye on their activities but allowed them maximum freedom of worship and action within the law. At the same time, some of the elegant courtiers, wits and writers of the time could not help poking some fun at the characters and personalities of the Puritan sect, often in satirical, veiled references in literary and dramatic works. Many of the premier dramatists of the age thus satirized the Puritanical beliefs and characters in their works, to general public delight. Shakespeare was not usually given to such activities. In his works, he generally used satire and social criticism very sparingly, content to create dramatic masterpieces to entertain the public without resorting to such cheap tricks of popularity. Rarely, when he did use satire, it was universal, directed at human weaknesses/foibles regardless of sect, or religious affiliation, or class distinctions e.g., addressing greed, ambition, lechery, gluttony etc. In Twelfth Night, however, critics such as Hunter, Stopford-Brookes, Wood and others, believe that Shakespeare made an exception by criticizing Puritans and Puritanism in the character of Malvolio. Is this interpretation valid? Let us briefly assess Malvolios character in the play and try to answer this question. When we first meet Malvolio (Act 1, Sc. 5) we note certain special characteristics of his dress, speech, demeanor and personality. Despite being the Steward or Majordomo in the household of the Countess Olivia, he is not a friendly, courteous, graceful or refined person. He is dressed over-soberly, in dark, mostly black clothes, with no ornamentation, or decorations, as was the custom for such important officials in a noble environment, in those days. Moreover, he has a great deal of conceit, self-righteousness and pride, considering himself better than the others and over-estimating his own intelligence, refinement and status. He pretends to be learned, sophisticated but sober and holds in contempt less perfect humans such as the drunken revellers,
Source: The Population Policy Data Bank maintained by the Population Division of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. For additional sources, see list of references.

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Jamaica
Sir Toby and Sir Andrew; the Clown, Feste; the light-hearted and flirtatious Maria; even poor Fabian, the servant of Olivia whose career he nearly ruined just to satisfy his maliciousness and because he does not like sports such as cock-fighting, bear-baiting etc, enjoyed by common men. Malvolios vicious, self-centered and self-righteous behavior is highlighted when he tries to control Sir Toby and Sir Andrews drunken revels (although they are only harmless, jovial gentlemen, superior to Malvolio in social rank); threatens Maria that he will also ruin her career for providing them more wine; and tries to humiliate Feste by attacking the profession of clowns and jesters. In response, all these people are offended and they join hands to fool, trap and disgrace Malvolio. They use the strategy of delivering anonymous love-letters, supposedly from Olivia herself, expressing love and admiration for Malvolio. Such is his vanity and foolish belief in his own self-importance, that he actually believes these tricks, which no sane, balanced person would subscribe to. He becomes engrossed in an ambitious, materialistic fantasy to fulfill his dream of becoming the master of Olivias love and property, on a purely imaginary leveland goes to desperate lengths to meet her supposed likes/wishes. Thus, his humiliation is completed when he is thrown in a cell by the infuriated Countess. Even at this point, he does not recognize his delusion or try to adopt a more humble, modest and balanced demeanor. His epistle to Olivia is full of rantings and ravings of an egotistical person, less concerned about the sly trick played on him and more anxious about restoring his lost status, which he thinks was snatched from him via some planned conspiracya normal person wouldve recognized the trick, accepted it gracefully, laughed at his own folly and begged the pardon of all concerned to win their friendship and affection. But he is too complexed, too obsessed with his own importance and virtuousness for this, and in the end is exposed in all his hatred of joy, laughter, happiness and human frivolityhe departs, the enemy of all, swearing revenge. It is a total, ignominious fall, and it seems to all that Malvolio deserved it. Nobodyneither the other characters, nor the audience nor readers, feel any real sympathy for him. They merely pity him, as a poor, unbalanced, egotistical creature with no redeeming features or human traits of a gentler, nicer nature. In Malvolio, indeed, we can see the worst features of the Puritanical nature as mentioned earlier. The selfcentered, self-righteous, rigidly moral, unsympathetic aspects. At the same time, we must also wonder why Shakespeare, who never criticized any group with such venom before, should want to criticize Puritanism so harshly and so suddenly in Twelfth Night. We know, for a fact also, that compared to almost all other writers/intellectuals of Elizabethan times, Shakespeare was the most tolerant towards Puritans. He knew many good, honest Puritans personally and could their strengths and weaknesses rationally. The most logical conclusion is that given by Wood, in this regard. Malvolio is, indeed, a type or personification of the dark side of Puritanism which Shakespeare finds more ridiculous than evil. In Twelfth Night even characters like Sir Andrew and Maria address him with the word/title of Puritan not with hostility but in a spirit of ridicule, making the audience laugh yet also think, on the special occasion of the performance of the play i.e., the 12th night after Christmas, the Feast of Epiphany, on 6th January. Probably, in their efforts to ban entertainment and dramatic shows o religious occasions, some Puritan preacher(s) (a Malvolio?) also attacked Shakespeares project. In response, or even as a forestalling of such kill-joy tactics, the Bard decided for once to show both the Puritans and the Elizabethan audience that, as in the play itself, such extremist trends can only become ridiculous in the eyes of normal, easy-going people with natural loves, desires, happiness and sorrows. No Puritan, or other fundamentalist, should have the right to suppress exhibitions of spontaneous joy and laughter.

Source: The Population Policy Data Bank maintained by the Population Division of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat. For additional sources, see list of references.

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